Four front-nine birdies gave rookie Wesley Bryan a chance to run down his first PGA TOUR win Sunday at the RBC Heritage. He finished the job with a tidy back-nine 33, leaving him one ahead of Luke Donald and two better than the trio of Patrick Cantlay, Ollie Schniederjans and William McGirt. Full scores
Bryan earned his Tour card last year after winning three times on the Web.com Tour, locking up the rare “Battlefield Promotion” to the PGA TOUR. Bryan has been knocking on the door constantly this season, hanging up four top 10’s before finally breaking through and becoming the first South Carolina-born player to win at Harbour Town.
Why Bryan won
Harbour Town is a perfect track for Bryan. Its small greens, numerous doglegs and tight driving areas place a premium on a player’s shotmaking and short game abilities rather than their ability to hit it far. For the week, Bryan ranked 67th in strokes gained: off the tee, but second in SG: Approaching the Green, 10th in SG: Around the green, and 11th in SG: Putting.
These stats mirror that of runner-up Luke Donald, who has now finished in the top 3 at Harbour Town six(!) of the last eight years. This week, Donald finished 70th in SG: Off the Tee, 24th in SG: Approaching the Green, 1st in SG: Around the green and 4th in SG: Putting. These two players show that Harbour Town is truly a test of how well you hit all the clubs in your bag rather than just the big dog. Also, Luke Donald’s game might be a great comp for Wesley Bryan and his future.
Closing with a stellar 67, Patrick Cantlay continued his strong comeback to the PGA Tour with a T3 finish at Harbour Town. After nearly three years off, Cantlay now has a runner-up and a third place finish in just four starts. He is showing that he still deserves to be named among the world’s best young players.
The rookies can play
While their fellow rookie triumphed, Ollie Schniederjans and J.J. Spaun continued their stellar maiden campaigns, each notching top 10 finishes at The Heritage. Schniederjans held the lead for parts of Sunday, but a late bogey on 17 doomed his chances of winning. He settled for his fourth top 10 of the 2016-17 season. Meanwhile Spaun notched his third top 10 and fifth top 25 with his T6 at the Heritage. Both Schniederjans and Spaun have found themselves in the mix consistently this year. Don’t be surprised to see one or both pick up a win before the end of 2017.
Nice guys finish last
Golf’s friendliest player, Ian Poulter came into the week needing $145,000 in order to satisfy his major medical exemption and regain his PGA Tour card. With only two starts left on his exemption, Poulter played his way into contention but struggled Sunday, shooting a 2-over 73 to fall into a tie for 11th and coming up one shot and $30,000 short of his amount needed. This will force Poulter to play next week’s Valero Texas Open in the hopes of earning the remaining amount. Otherwise he may need to find a new place to play golf.
Edoardo Molinari won the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco after he eagled the final hole and forced a playoff with 54-hole leader Paul Dunne. Molinari made a par on the first playoff hole to beat Dunne and notch his first European Tour title since 2010. Unlike his brother Francesco, the former U.S. Am champ’s professional career has been filled with up’s and down’s. Last fall he was forced to go to European Tour Qualifying School to retain his playing privileges.
Meanwhile for the runner-up Dunne, Sunday served as another learning experience in the young star’s progression. It was the first time he held the 54-hole lead in a tournament since his since his historic run as a 22-year-old amateur at 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews. It was also his best finish on the European Tour. Dunne currently sits 20th in the Race to Dubai standings and certainly fits the bill as another young European to keep an eye on.
Quite the comeback
American Cristie Kerr came from behind to win the LOTTE Championship on Saturday. Kerr played the final 52 holes without a bogey and closed with rounds of 62 and 66 to pass Su-Yeon Jang and set the tournament scoring record at 20 under. Jang finished runner up along with World No. 1 Lydia Ko and In Gee Chun. It was Ko’s best finish of 2017 after making equipment and swing coach changes. After the tournament, she also announced her second caddie change in the last 10 months.
Almost Championship Season
College golf’s spring season is wrapping up and the country’s best teams and players are in full preparation for conference championships, regionals and, hopefully, the national championship. This weekend, two of the final big-time regular season events were played with many of the top Big 12 teams in action at the Maxwell and some of the ACC’s best playing at The Wolfpack Spring Open.
This year’s Maxwell saw a showdown between three of the nation’s biggest title threats, No. 2-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 3-ranked Baylor and the 13th-ranked Oklahoma. The OSU Cowboys prevailed thanks to top-ten performances from three of their five players, wining by six shots over Oklahoma and New Mexico. Baylor finished 21 shots back.
At the Wolfpack Spring Open the host school, No. 42-ranked North Carolina State, were able to triumph over Carolina powerhouse programs Clemson and Duke. N.C. State won by thirteen shots thanks to standout performances from Nolan Mills and Jacob McBride who went 1-2 on the individual side.